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Escape Pod 836: Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 2 of 4)


Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 2 of 4)

By R.S.A. Garcia

Eros

Now

For several days, she lay on Dee’s pallet while he slept somewhere in the room outside. Every few hours she would check the Kinnec, but it remained resolutely purple.

Dee brought her food, water to wash, and fresh clothes. He apologized for not having an entertainment node and shared his hololibrary instead. He spent a lot of time outside, or moving around in the kitchen, doing chores. He was an excellent cook who scaled and gutted fish out in the yard with glittering flashes of his nimble knife. He was fond of ground provisions, which she usually shunned at home but enjoyed here because he often roasted them over an open flame.

During the day, he left the front door open to let fresh air in and allow her a view. She watched as he worked in the garden, lean muscles rippling under brown, sweat-sheened skin.

Whenever he broke for a drink of water, he’d pour the last of it over his head. She would follow the trail of the water down his bare chest until it disappeared under his loose work pants. On the third day, after he wiped a hand over his face, he caught her looking. She didn’t drop her eyes to the holobook she was reading, wondering idly what he would do.

He dropped the dipper back into the barrel near the stairs, gave her a quick wink and went back to work.

She had to give up reading, having lost her place in the book and any interest in the tale.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 835: Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 1 of 4)


Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 1 of 4)

By R.S.A. Garcia

Brother-Adita paused at the top of the ridge and rotated one eye to take in the shells climbing the path behind them. They gestured beyond them with a limb, a habit picked up from their young, excitable sibling.

“Quarter-march, west-north-west,” came their voice through the Kinnec.

“Acknowledged,” the other two shells replied.

Metal clacked against stone as the scouting party made their way over the rocky terrain until a half-crumbled hillside came into view above them. Freshly fallen boulders lay cracked and scattered on the flats below a large irregular hole. The hole was dark, the opening blackened and fused from heat.

A recon drone unwrapped itself from the diplomat’s shell.

“Unnecessary,” Brother-Adita said. “Shell destroyed. Only core remains.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 833: The Heroine Kokofe


The Heroine Kokofe

By Ife J. Ibitayo

Kokofe awoke an hour before dawn, crusty-eyed and groggy. She wobbled to her feet and washed her face. Her simuclip projected her reflection before her eyes.

Already dressed, her pink all-weather blouse draped over her delicate frame. Her bird-thin cheek bones jutted out of her light brown face. The glow from the simuclip in her hair coated her skin in an unearthly off-white haze. She brushed her teeth and applied some blush. Don’t want to look like a ghost before I hunt a demon, she thought wryly. At least that was what Agba ceremonies used to be about, killing the demon without to put to death the demon lurking within.

Much to her surprise, the pleasant aroma of frying sweet potato wafted into her bedroom. She hefted her backpack and stepped out of her room.

“It’s been a long time since you cooked,” Kokofe said as she took a seat at their dining table.

Baba stood over a frying pan simmering on their portastove. “It’s time I remember how to. You won’t be in our home much longer.”

Kokofe bit her lip. “Yeah.”

Baba finished scraping the fried potato slices onto a plate and glanced at Kokofe. “None of that, Koko. Today is a glorious day for our tribe. I even trimmed my beard for the occasion.” He stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee, and Kokofe couldn’t help but laugh. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 827: The Wrong Side of the Sky


The Wrong Side of the Sky

By Raymond Roach

There’s an old woman who lives in the desert, and who has lived in the desert a very long time. So, too, have her people, but many of them have gone, while she remains. She’s old enough that she should have a child on her back, or even a grandchild, but she doesn’t. When she was a girl, her people crossed the desert back and forth in an intricate network of traveling families, constantly intersecting; so many of them are gone, now, that the old woman can spend days at a time in perfect solitude without ever seeing another traveler cross the horizon, much less her own path.

So she flies alone, the fat brown barrel of her body slung easily between wide black wings, over the desert. It isn’t an endless desert, but it’s broad enough that even from the thin cold ceiling of the sky, this woman can’t see the edges. What she’s looking for—what she finds—are the far-flung speckles of green that make constellations of the smooth and trackless sands, those points which turn a formless emptiness into meaningful space.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 826: This Is Our Get-Along Brainship


This Is Our Get-Along Brainship

by Kristen Koopman

The brainship Coraje spent its captain’s first walkthrough determinedly ignoring the anomalous sensor data, cold spots, plumbing breakdowns, and spots of visual noise in the hopes that if it just tried hard enough to not believe in ghosts, the ghost would go away.

The ghost did not agree. As Captain Salas and First Mate Teixeira came aboard the Coraje for the first time since the operating consciousness’s installation, the lights frantically flickered on the bridge. The Coraje took two-thirds of a second to clamp down on the behavior—just long enough to translate the flickering, in binary machine-code, into the text characters for “I’M STILL HERE.”

The Coraje hated the fucking ghost. Or would, if it believed ghosts existed.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 825: Fourth Nail


Fourth Nail

By Mur Lafferty

Regina Phillips’ job on the orbital station God’s Eye was that of a nighttime systems engineer. She had to warm her desk chair and make sure nothing broke. It was the highest paying, most boring job around. So she sat in shocked silence for a good minute when the red alert hit.

She didn’t even know the cloning lab had an alert system. It was hard to have an emergency involving minds that were backed up and bodies that were ultimately renewable. Still, there it was, a red glow around her monitor as the words “UNAUTHORIZED TRANSMISSION” blinked over and over again.

Around her, cloning vats filled the lab, each waiting for the command to start growing a new body for a dying clone. One clone in the far end vat was nearly done, but Regina didn’t recognize the face. She wasn’t a tech responsible for dealing with the actual vats, just the computer systems. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 822: Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My!

Show Notes

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My! originally appeared in Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology in October 2020.


Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, Oh My!

by Tina Connolly

day 183

dear permanent record of my deepest thoughts for posterity app,
today sucked.

The Captain of the Glorious Starship Rockety McZoomystars (never let the federated starspace internet name anything) has announced that there was a miscalculation with the wormholes or the FTL drive or whatever and now this trip is going to take THREE YEARS longer than expected. Everyone in my educational cluster was already hunkering down for 6 years (like, we made it through elementary, we can make it through this) but NOW there is a Lot of Discontent among the teenage ranks. Even the power clique students who’ve been like ExpansionHo!, New Planets Are Amazing! were grumbling loudly in the cafeteria.

I was already having a tough week because I was just remembering that back home it was time to audition for the new crop of spring shows at my high school and, STUPIDLY, Rockety McZoomystars has no drama department.

IDK, it’s just been a lot tougher than I expected.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 813: A Consideration of Trees


A Consideration of Trees

By Beth Cato

As a xenoarbitrator, I was accustomed to working with concepts and situations deemed peculiar by most of humanity. Often, though, my own species confounded me most of all.

“I fear you misunderstood my advertisement.” I stood in Mari Kane’s miniscule parlor on Bradbury Orbital Station. My felizard partner, Petey, twitched in his nest atop my silvering crown braids. “I usually mediate between different species. You need a private investigator to look into a suspicious death–”

“Rainbow Charm Corporation owns the local investigators. Madam Alameda, you’re from off station. I couldn’t find any corporate affiliations in your history. You’re the independent investigator I want to hire.” A pleading note crept into her voice.

“I appreciate your confidence in me, but–”

“Bradbury Orbital is property of Rainbow Charm.” Petey spoke directly into my mind via our neural bond, his four-inch-long body flexing as he hummed in thought. “That’s a Thrassi-owned firm. This could be a cultural misunderstanding.”

“–this still isn’t my purview,” I finished, speaking aloud to both of them at once. “I study stories, new and old, and use them to bridge misunderstandings between different kinds of lifeforms. If you had a Murkle as your neighbor, for instance, who began screaming nonstop if rain lasted for more than a day, I could explain why and advise the Murkle on more appropriate responses.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to work with a screaming Murkle about then. Humans had been decisively immoral in every one of my recent jobs–cruel to fellow humans, and other kinds of life, too. Jaded as I felt, I had to wonder what crime her husband had committed to end up dead. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 812: The First Doom (Part 3 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 3)

by DaVaun Sanders

The Dubious’s bay doors didn’t budge as the hopper drew close. Kyria began to sweat as a console flickered on to show Zele’s scowl and Remiliat’s intense stare.

Kyria preempted them. “Everyone’s dead, except me and Paky,” she said. “Some sort of biological countermeasures. Paky’s still reeling from it, or he’d tell you himself.”

“A biological contaminant? That would mean—” Remiliat’s eyebrows climbed her forehead. “Replay the events exactly!”

“We’re not sick. The hopper sweeped our vitals clean. We’re wasting time. That ship is dangerous!”

“Yes, yes,” Zele said soothingly. “Give us a moment to think this through.”

The channel abruptly muted. Kyria wiped a hand over her scalp in frustration. Her eyes widened at sight of the glittering blue flecks on her palm. Hair follicles. Stained blue from Tar City, like indigo powder from a spent smart round. Am I sick? She licked her lips, glancing back at Zele. No way they had seen that on the monitor.

Paky gazed at her silently, working his mouth open and closed as if rediscovering his tongue. Kyria held a finger to his lips. After a moment he repeated the gesture. He doesn’t want them to know how messed up he is either, she thought bitterly. Hair falling out and a trauma mute…what a pair we make.

The monitor’s audio flicked back on. “Upflash your mission data,” Remiliat ordered.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 811: The First Doom (Part 2 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 2)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria awoke with a start. An alarm chimed faintly in the cryo tube. The frosted glass hissed aside. She clambered free, but her legs immediately buckled and the steel plated floor greeted her with a cold kiss. Kyria lay there until the trembling stopped, and sensation returned to her legs. A light blinked behind the skin of her palm—her sleep mod had finally kicked in. She’d never had to use it in a cryo tube before.

You hear me, rookie? It’s just a leg. You can make a new leg out of the medallions I’m going to get for you. Kyria never spoke the dead woman’s name, it only encouraged her to stir. Now pay attention. Exo-armor can process your new equilibrium better than you can if you lose a limb. Don’t fight the balance when—

“Bad enough I replay it when I’m awake, too,” Kyria muttered. She stood, thankful her legs held.

A glance at the open cryo tube’s chronometer surprised her. She’d slept just over two weeks; half of their expected flight time. Shuster’s measured snoring came loud enough to crack his tube open, but Kyria checked on him anyway, brushing her palm on the frosted glass. I’m keeping more of my crew alive than you, Captain. Her argument cheated on numbers, but even a frail truth held some comfort.

(Continue Reading…)

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